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A Reykjavik stopover

Posted at 2:15 am in Travel

Iceland Air offers free stop overs in Reykjavik, on your way to or from Europe, so we decided to take advantage of it and pop by to say hello and check out some new products. We arrived in Reykjavik early Monday morning and started our day off right by having breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast places, the Grey Cat.

We actually managed to not look like the living dead…thanks to miraculously sleeping most of the flight.

The breakfast is just perfect, eggs and stewed tomatoes, potatoes, toast with lots of butter, pancakes and bacon.

After breakfast we met up with Andrea Maack and her husband at their home and studio. Juli bought one of her perfumes last year and it’s been her go to scent ever since. It started off as an exhibition concept at Spark Design, but we recently found out that the perfumes are available and being expanded, so we are working on bringing them over to the shop!

They are obsessed with using corian as a material in their packaging and displays, so they made some dumbbells too! The 11 on the weight is  actually incorrect so while you work out, you also work out your mind trying to figure out exactly what the weight of it might be.

Packaging and catalogs.

Perfume sample strips.

After our visit they dropped us off at Spark Design Space to see the new Scintilla textile exhibition which is by Icelandic textile and fashion designer Linda Björg Árnadóttir. We met her on our trip last summer and brought her collection to our store, we were excited to see all the new products in person.

The new collection features more pillows, blankets, table cloths, and towels.

Finna and Brynhildur of Vík Prjónsdóttir were waiting for us at Spark design space.

There is now such an amazing range of textiles, you can stop by Mjolk to see at least 3 different versions of her pillows.

We picked up some lobster soup and had an impromptu picnic near the lighthouse.

Now this is bringing back fond memories.

After lunch Finna and Brynhildur gave us some “Skyrkonfelkt”, a product they produced with local farmers, in an effort to re-brand farming from a focus on raw material to extending production to varied product lines. Last year it was a sort of rhubarb brittle. This year it is Skyr filled chocolate. It was delicious, and the concept is wonderful.

A stop at a popular local ice cream shop.

Then back to Mokka Kaffi – there are too many places we just had to visit again…sorry to long time Kitka readers…

We met with designers Ingibjörg (middle) and Halla, you have seen Ingibjörg’s work in our store, most prominently the Krummi Hanger. The second time you meet someone on a trip is so much better, we were chatting away the minutes sipping on coffee and eating waffles. Ingibjörg and Halla showed us some beautiful and thoughtful new prototypes that we would be more than happy to offer through our store when they eventually become products.

Walking by the new Concert Hall – it’s almost complete. Love the sunlight and water reflection!

We had been up too many hours than we can even think of so for dinner we wanted to play keep it simple, a local spot with some good old fashioned fish and chips.

Gull beer

Tiny Icelandic lobsters in butter and herbs to share, so delicious!

Although the dish is quite traditional it is made in a slightly healthier more delicious way, the batter is made from spelt and barley, all the potatoes are hand cut and baked instead of fried, and all of the ingredients used in the skyronnaise are all organic.

After dinner we took a long walk around the city to work off our food, and wind down from the day.

Juli was taking a series of photographs of things displayed in windows and totally got caught taking a picture of this person’s fern. Her response was, “I like your ferns!” Haha, embarrassing.

Of course we just had to stop off for a “night cap” hot dog at one of the most famous hot dog stands in the world. Now we’re tired, and we’ll have to wake up really early again to get to Copenhagen.

Good Night!

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Reykjavik: day three

Posted at 10:08 am in Travel

Well it’s day three, and the last full day of our trip to Reykjavik. We started the day off right with breakfast at Tiu Dropar. We attempted to have breakfast here the day before but we were too early.

At this point I have to mention that all the lattes have been delicious, and I’m convinced it’s because they use unpasteurized milk.

The wallpaper was pretty amazing.

We had “The truck” breakfast which includes eggs, bacon, potatoes, tomatoes, and of course waffles!

After breakfast we visited the Listasafn Reykjavikur (Reykjavik art museum).

The different uses of oxidized materials was beautiful. It really makes us want to re-shingle the peak of our building with copper.

The lighting in the gallery was amazing!

The sitting area of the museum had a really interesting sofa. The arms were leather, the body was tweed wool, and at the end there is a sheep skin upholstered cushion.

What a lovely fence.

We had our last meeting of the trip at Farmers Market. Their studio and  retail store is located in the fish packing district right near the water. We’re really excited to expand on the brand this fall, when we first got the sweaters in we only had 2 patterns so we’re happy to get more of a variety this time.

These chairs belong to Bjork (no seriously).

A trip to any Scandinavian country wouldn’t be complete without a hot dog or two. Especially when it comes from Bill Clinton approved Bæjarins Beztu. On the ads coming over from Toronto there was one that said something along the lines of  “Iceland is wonderful because their most popular restaurant is a hot dog stand.”

We meant to go to the grocery store to get whatever the mustard was on these hot dogs to barbecue some wieners at the cottage. Unfortunately time wasn’t on our side, but at least we can pick up some dehydrated onions and try to make as close as we can.

It seemed as though we’ve saved the best for last with a visit to the Nordic House. We arrived for our 8pm reservation at Dill restaurant, so the building was mostly closed, but we were able to sneak a few pics of the interior. Strangely, I missed snapping any of the restaurant!

The Nordic House was designed by one of our favorite architects, Alvar Aalto. The second you walk into a space designed by Aalto there is always a sense of warmth and comfort. The Nordic House is the only building in Reykjavik designed by an internationally acclaimed architect.

The library: note the shelves and lighting!

The Auditorium.

And so begins an epic meal that rivals last year’s Alberto K. We were given a glass of champagne and the menu, from which we could choose the 3, 5 or 7 course meal. We’re a go big or go home twosome, so 7 courses it was! They don’t have a wine list so in the end we succumbed to the wine pairings (always dangerous)…everyone was doing it.

Amuse bouche #1 – salmon and roe with dill. How can something so small taste so good?

Amuse Bouche #2: Apple and arctic char (totally guessing here).

Fennel salad.

Gorgeous view of a pond and the city beyond. They have a little herb garden right outside the window which they use daily.

Ok, I am a serious bread monster. This was absolute heaven. The whipped butter on the left went with a dark molasses bread and the liquid gold on the right (burnt butter) went with a light bread. I know it’s not right to ask for more bread when one is consuming a 7 course meal, but I HAD TO.

Icelandic Beer! Made with 1000 year old glacier water.

Every time this group of lawyers go out for a nice meal, they pick a table to buy shots for. We were the lucky pair!

Of course, this meant the night was going to get dangerous.

A refreshing desert to clear the palate.

I think this is around 7 glasses of wine each.

Getting distracted and artistic.

The Aalto A110 pendant lights were being used as hot lamps!

Icelandic treats and french press coffee.

That bottle there is known in Iceland as “Black Death”, it has a black label because it was one of the first alcohols to be sold after prohibition and it could only be sold if the bottle had a big black label so it didn’t look attractive to shoppers. After 7 glasses of wine, 1 glass of champagne, 1 glass of beer, and 2 licorice flavored shots each, this took us over the edge.

The restaurant had about 2 larger groups and 5 smaller groups, a total of about 30 people and two friendly servers. Definitely make a reservation! The pacing was also really great, however we paid for our indulgence the next morning…

Well it’s time for us to catch our flight, but there’s one last thing you need to do before leaving Iceland. You need to take a quick trip to the Blue Lagoon! There are buses that leave Ryekjavik that stop by the Blue Lagoon on the way to the Airport. Sadly we were in a bit of a rush so we didn’t get a photo of the lagoon. Oh well, next time!

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Reykjavik: day two

Posted at 8:16 pm in Travel

Day two started off super early with a quick breakfast at the Grey Cat again (not much else was open and we didn’t have time to wander) and a meeting with Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir at Reykjavik’s major Scandinavian design shop Epal. She is fortunate enough to have a space for her studio within their large showroom. We already carry her raven coat hangars but we wanted to meet her in person and see some of her other work.

Right after that we headed over to the brand new Spark Design Space for our second meeting with Thury from Vik Prjonsdottir – we’ll be putting in an order this week for some very awesome wintry items. This meeting was quite fortuitous, as we also met with gallery owner and the head of product design at the design school, Sigridur Sigurjonsdottir. She shared with us some recent student/graduate/faculty work. As well we learned about the current exhibition at Spark.

“For the past two years Maack has worked with the world of scents, creating fragrances for her art projects in collaboration with French perfumery APF. The scents are based on a perfumer translating the artists original drawings into scents.”

I am totally not a perfume person, but I tried one on for the day and returned later to buy “Sharp”. (photo from Spark)

From left: John, Thury and Andrea.

After a morning of meetings we went to Sægreifinn in the harbor area. They have the best lobster soup. Note baby in pram, sleeping soundly outside the restaurant. God I wish we lived in such a world.

Nom nom.

Gull beer and lobster soup. Not exactly a match made in heaven, but whatever.

That painting is awesome.

The inspiration. For some reason they felt the need to include the guy lurking in the background.

Mink whale, anyone?

Blue cat. Love the attention to detail.

A gallery and the design shop Kraum are located in this building, which is the oldest house in Reykjavik, dated to 1762.

John in shopping mode.

Off to get cultured, we stopped in at Reykjavík 871±2. I really like the mood of this exhibition, which is about the first settlement discovered in Reykjavik. It’s small, intimate and technically innovative. The above is a motion sensor video that plays when you walk past (the ghost like person and bird are the only things that move in the video).

A bit of the archeological find, with a smoking volcano in the background.

Afternoon snack at Mokka Kaffi, my absolute favourite coffee shop ever. Old timey and super cozy.

Wood, fabric woven wallpaper, aubergine carpet, steel.

The best waffles and lattes. The place was rammed when we first got there, waffles all around.

Again with the copper and black lighting. A ghostly patina on the wood slats.

Dinner was at Fish Market, recommended by Kitka friend Tyrone Warner among many. Reservation recommended.

We went with the tasting plate – which is served to the table. Kind of a greatest hits off their menu.

We outpaced most.

Our new friend Ingibjörg invited us out for a night cap at “Boston” a really cool bar on the second floor of a building. The DJ was in her 60s and playing some real classics, everyone was in a good mood and singing along.

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Attack of the zombies (aka Reykjavik, day one)

Posted at 1:45 pm in Travel

Our plane landed in Iceland around 6:30 AM and after picking up our bags, taking a bus into Reykjavik, and checking in at our hotel we were pretty exhausted and hungry. We stopped to have some breakfast at the Grey Cat.

The artwork to the right was made by the owner of the Grey Cat.

We definitely needed our coffee fix.

Yum! Eggs with stewed tomatoes, potatoes, bacon, and toast! The perfect cure for our zombiefication.

The interior is quite cozy with vintage copper and black painted pendant lights and lots of books.

We are staying at the 101 Hotel which used to be the Icelandic Social Democratic Party’s former home until it was transformed by owner and designer Ingiborg S. Palmadottir.

There are rows and rows of design literature throughout the lobby.

At the entrance to our room was this beautiful black glossy catch-all mounted to the wall. It fits everything perfectly.

The room is simple and clean with heated oak floors and Italian linen sheets. We really loved the 3 oak shelves in the entrance.

There is a long counter which is used as a desk, a television stand, and a bar.

Our little mini bar with some Icelandic treats.

Another cool feature was having a little drawer full of little gifts you can buy.

The bathroom took some getting used to, with its frosted glass and full mirrors.

After food and shower we headed out into the sunshine for a wander.

We were running out of fuel so we stopped off to get another round of lattes and a couple of croissants at Sandholt cafe.

Refueled, we headed down to the harbor area.

Our first dinner in Reykjavik was at La Primavera which we heard to be one of Jamie Oliver’s favorite restaurants. It’s a fusion between Icelandic and Italian cuisine, we were intrigued.

It was a bit of an early dinner, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves.

The first course was goats cheese sauce under a bed of prosciutto topped with arugula and drizzled with oil. It was very savory and the arugula added a nice peppery flavour that balanced the dish. The bread basket also saw a lot of action.

The main was slow cooked lamb, tagliatelle, Parmesan and parsley. Simple, delicious, comfort food–exactly what we needed that night.

The desert was a panna cotta with vanilla and orange garnish. I didn’t think I liked panna cotta until now.

I guess they were right about the whole Jamie Oliver thing.

Our last stop of the evening was Prikid for a couple of pints.

Viking pints of course.

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A few things from Iceland

Posted at 10:54 am in General,Travel

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As we mentioned previously, Spark Design Space closed at the end of March. We were thankful that we had one last opportunity to check it out and to speak with owner Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir.

We picked up one of the candleholders from Spark’s last show 1+1+1, whereby three design studios reimagine and collaborate on a variety of objects. This candlestick is comprised of elements designed separately by each group, and then put together to make about 30+ unique combinations.

I also attempted to impulse purchase the book Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland but ended up receiving it as a gift from Sigríður (thanks again!!!).

Also pictured: A sculpture by Paul Wackers and a vintage Alvar Aalto door handle.

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Although these pretty Hafod Grange Paperweights hail from the UK (our next trip!), John has been obsessing over them for awhile. One for John.

Also pictured: Tapio Wirkkala copper bowl

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One for Elodie.

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Howell got this gorgeous sweater by As We Grow. Based out of Reykjavik, the company is trying to bring back a sense of value to children’s clothing, with the idea that it can be passed on. Really beautiful quality. I wanted to get the kids Icelandic sweaters but most of them can be a bit scratchy. This one is so soft. Howell hates when we put it on him but then we can’t take it off him. I have to hover by him while he eats so he doesn’t get food on it (he also refuses a bib). So I’d say he loves it.

[photo of Howell by Gaby]

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Iceland – Design March 2

Posted at 11:00 am in Travel

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View of Reykjavik, from The Presidential Residence. Guests of Design March were invited to meet the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

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John signing the guest book.

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After a speech we were left to mingle and explore the residence.

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In the basement there are some excavated spaces. From their website:

The history of Bessastaðir has been closely associated with the history of Iceland since the times of the settlement in the 9th century AD. Archeological excavations have shown that the first inhabitants of Bessastaðir settled there before AD 1000, and ever since the site has been inhabited. In the 13th century the great writer Snorri Sturluson had one of his farms there. After Snorri’s death, the king of Norway confiscated the property, and during the remainder of the middle ages it was used by top representatives of the foreign rulers of Iceland. In the 17th century Bessastaðir was the residence of the most powerful representative of the Danish monarch in Iceland.

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Wild weather, we arrived with a dark cloud looming and then there was this spectacular whiteout with a glowing yellow sun, and then clear skies.

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We also spent some time with Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir of original Krummi bird hanger fame. She took us around to various exhibitions that she was participating in. Above is a tiny house named Stöðlakot (that you can apparently rent via Air B n B) where they had one exhibition.

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This piece was showing at Epal, in collaboration with Umemi. I can’t find any more details but it is a rug and the pattern is sound waves. Regretting not picking up a few Umemi Knot Cushions for the kids.

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Hanging out with some new friends, Steinunn ValaIngibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir, Guðbjörg Káradóttir and Ólöf Jakobína Ernudóttir of Postulina, and Marý.

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We also had the pleasure with spending some time with Andrea Maack, whereby she showed us her newest scents and bottle design, available soon at Mjölk (currently sold out).

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On our last day we visited The Culture House, which was a new stop for us, prompted by a designer we met while having a bite in the hotel cafe. I wish we had more time as there were quite a few exhibitions happening. On the left is Universe, a piece that is a part of the Primitiva show by Katrín Ólína Pétursdóttir.

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A visit to Reykjavik is not complete without a visit to Mokka for coffee and waffles. Love the sign.

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One major thing we noticed since our last visit is the huge rise in tourism. Tourist shops line the main street, pushing design shops out of the downtown, and a long lineup at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

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One casualty to rising rents is Spark Design Space, which will be closing April 1.

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1+1+1 is an experimental collaboration between designers from three Nordic countries – Hugdetta from Iceland, Petra Lilja from Sweden and Aalto+Aalto from Finland. The project examines and reimagines objects by having each studio design an object consisting of three distinct parts and then mixing the parts up into unpredictable combinations.

Clever show. They created parameters such as the dimensions, and three components. Then each of the three design studios takes the elements to create new combinations.

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Founded by Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, Spark has been an important gallery to visit since our first trip, and we will really miss it as a beacon for local design and art.

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